Jags Open 2017 Sun Belt Conference Schedule Against Idaho

September 20, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football 

South Alabama earned a much needed tune-up win last week against Alabama A&M. The team scored points in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.

Now that they finally put a notch in the win column after starting the season with two extremely difficult games against Power-5 schools, they can turn their attention to the first conference game of this young season. Last season the team had the highest of highs but also some quite low points. They started the season with the big win over Mississippi State, then a few weeks later they defeated their first ranked opponent in San Diego State. But in conference they only managed to go 2-6.

But this is a new season and their first conference game is right around the corner.

The Idaho Vandals will make their second-ever trip to Mobile, their previous trip started off great but became a bit of a nightmare after halftime. The Vandals scored the first 24 points of the game and had a 24-7 lead at halftime. But Xavier Johnson re-energized the Jags by returning the opening kick of the second half 100 yards. By the midway point of third quarter the Jags were ahead 45-31 and held on for a 52-45 win.

So far this season the Jags have faced two big-time quarterbacks in Shea Patterson and Mason Rudolph. Both likely heading to the NFL one day. Idaho has a quarterback who could easily join them on the next level. Matt Lineham is a fourth-year starter for the Vandals with over 9,000 career yards passing and completing over 65% of his passing attempts.

Lineham’s father, Scott Lineham, is now the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. So he knows what it takes to get to the next level.

After dropping their first two games against USA, Lineham and the Vandals finally earned a 38-31 win over the Jags. Their win last season was one win on the way to a 9-4 record, including a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

But the Vandals do not look like the same team as last year after losing four of their top five receivers and three starting offensive linemen to graduation. They opened the season with a 28-6 win over Sacramento State, they’ve dropped back-to-back games against UNLV (44-16) and Western Michigan (37-28).

Through the first three games the Jaguar defense has looked pretty good despite losing 47-27 to Ole Miss and 44-7 to Oklahoma State. But the secondary has taken some hits.

Neiko Robinson has been lost for the season due to a foot injury. Now sophomore Bobby Flott and freshman (and Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the week) Gus Nave are both out of the season with knee injuries.

Now it’s next man up. Sterrling Fisher has stepped up and former wide receiver Quinton Lane is adjusting well to his move to cornerback.

In the previous two games the Vandals have run for a total of seven touchdowns and have had a running back rush for at least 135 yards each of those games. This season running back Aaron Duckworth has the longest run (74 yards) and pass reception (60 yards) of the season for his team. Of the three runs of 40 yards or more last season, they all belonged to Duckworth.

Paul Petrino’s defense is stingy on third down. They rank 2nd in the Sun Belt and 41st nationally by allowing opponents to convert 31.8% of third down attempts.

Keys to a Jaguar win:
Third down conversions will be key. USA has only converted 17.9% of their third downs so far this season. They can’t get hung up on a statistic here but they need to play to win each snap and the key to that is to keep drives alive.

Stopping the run and putting pressure on Lineham will be big. As previously mentioned, the last two games have seen running backs rush for over 135 yard in each of them. Duckworth will look to make it three in a row and he has a history of breaking long plays.

In Lineham’s first three games against USA, he has five touchdown passes and six interceptions while completing just over 60% of this attempts. The defense can’t allow a runner to get free nor can they allow Lineham too much time to throw, even with all the new receivers this year.

South Alabama and Idaho will kick off at 1pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday, September 23. They need fans in the stands and they need them to be loud.

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